Where to from here?

Some time in the last ten years, possibly only the last five, planting of the bulbs in various parts of Keukenhof took something of a turn away from beds of solid colour, and towards a layered effect.


Carpets of low bulbs such as muscari, in all of its many variations, or Anemone blanda, are punctured by a mid-height narcissus or hyacinth of some sort.

Over this usually hovers a thinnish layer of tulips, usually in many tints and shades within a limited colour range, and finally, piercing the lot, is the occasional fritillaria.  All are in flower at the same time.

 Nothing could be more different to the previous all-colour-at-a-particular-height approach – which still dominates.

I’m envious of the deep knowledge of the characteristics of each species or variety necessary to make this possible.


And to a would-be user/arranger/manipulator of plants like me, it’s heaven.

Not that I’d necessarily want to copy any of this directly, as it’s all way too chocolate boxy for any garden I’d own or design, but it opens a door to a huge range of new bulb-planting possibilities.


  1. HI Michael,
    You have just added another destination to my bucket list! I adore this way of planting and layering bulbs. I have recently become very keen on planting bulbs. This happened when I decided I must stop expanding by taking fences out, I am now figuring out new ways of layering up my existing garden so I can continue to have new plant fixes.
    When were these photos taken? Looks like the perfect time to visit.
    Best, Trina Tully

    1. Hi Trina
      These pics were taken only a couple of days before I wrote the post. Last week of April/first week of May is the best time to visit. And then, of course, there’s the vagaries of the season. This part of Europe experienced a very cold early spring this year, so the flowering was delayed, and compressed, until we were there on the 7th May. In some years this would be a little late.
      Yeah, when a garden can’t – or shouldn’t – get any bigger, it’s a matter of making what you’ve got work harder.

  2. oh my goodness …. if once in a lifetime I was able to achieve just one metre sq of such perfection in my own garden I would be inclined to rest on my gardening laurels for quite some time!……. chocolate boxy or not!

  3. How lucky you are to be there and how much more appealing these images are compared to the traditional solid blocks of colour. Gets you thinking about all sorts of ways to use these concepts. Do you think you could inspire the Floriade team in Canberra? I met with them a few years ago and they were amazingly open to new ideas but I’m not sure much has actually changed. How nice it would be for Floriade to inspire in this way with new thinking each year.

    1. I agree, Janna. But when it comes to huge blocks of colour, we’re surprisingly undiscerning. I, along with all my tour group, was stupidly excited by a field of muscari (pics on the facebook page) – just great slabs of cobalt blue. When we’re that easily pleased, there’s no great incentive to do anything more complex. But I’m sure it’d help with the problem of getting visitors back, year after year.

  4. It all seems so fraught. Getting all those bulbs to grow and then sing their songs in perfect unison. While I admire its results, achieving this gardening triple somersault with pike….I’m sure the tension would be too much for me.
    I’ve quite liked some of the more easily-achieved Canberra Floriade displays with annuals below bulbs, rather than other bulbs, and been surprised by such a wide range of colour combinations that shouldn’t have worked, but did. And of course, it’s always the amount of green leaf showing that’s the key to the best combined displays.

    1. It’s the very difficulty level that makes it so compelling to me, Catherine. Not that there’s any trickery involved – it’s all about observation. Someone has carefully recorded flowering times and colours in order to blend these bulbs effectively. I lust after that kind of knowledge..

  5. Wow, how beautiful! It reminds me of drifts of flowers in English and French forests, only on a denser scale. Personally I would love a garden like this – just brimming with life, colour and movement. Exquisite. Thanks for sharing it – I’ve never seen anything like this before – a garden jewel-box.

    1. It’s incredible, really, that we haven’t seen anything like it before. It was a total revelation to me when I first saw it in 2012. We’d all seen tulips hovering over forget-me-nots, but bulbs over bulbs was totally new.

  6. Dreamy. It must be lovely to be in heaven. A study for the flower gardener on combining flower colour and shape – dots, droplets, happy-fringed-daisies, cups, goblets, bells, parrots, trumpets and spires. Love the spires that reach for the stars- trying to do that in my garden with Echium wildprettii (fingers crossed) and dots of Allium sphaerocephalon. Looks like a step in the right direction to me, hip horray for Keukenhof, nice to see someone’s thinking. I hope I make it there some day. Thanks for making me smile this morning. I’ll come back to this post if the city starts to wear me down. Gorgeous photographs.

    1. I love that list of flower shapes. ‘Droplets’ in particular. There is something totally inexplicably – but universally – charming about that pendulous droplet thing. And it’s quite different from the ‘dot’. Why is this never written about?
      And clearly someone is thinking about it, as you say. I wish all that could think could also write..

  7. i like this flowers so much, I wish i could live my life around it.

  8. So nice to see your pictures of the Netherlands, they are beautiful. I hope you enjoyed your stay in our country

    1. I loved it Pauline. Who couldn’t? And it’s impact is further amplified, as you can imagine, by flying in from the southern hemisphere Autumn and hitting Keukenhof on the first day!

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